General Relativity 100th anniversary

einstein-calendar-cover2015On 25th of November 2015, exactly 100 years had passed since Einstein presented his General theory of Relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. His new theory was ground breaking in many ways and changed our apprehension of space and time in a definite manner. It went even further by proposing that gravity, the force that holds the solar system together in Newton’s theory, was nothing but space-time itself; the twist being that matter itself (or in fact energy) can bend and warp space-time.

Despite having been successfully confronted to experiments almost right away, the Theory of General Relativity has still, to this day, difficulties to permeate the popular spheres and is in fact not necessarily taught in physics curricula in Universities. The main reasons are (a) the predicted deviations from Newtonian physics are very small on Earth, (b) its (somewhat rebutting) mathematical complexity involving (pseudo-) Riemannian  geometry and (c) its non intuitive and mind bending predictions very difficult to apprehend without writing equations. It is often said indeed that one cannot understand General Relativity without an extensive use of Mathematics.

Yet, the recent movie Interstellar did an excellent job in picturing what it would mean to travel in a world where the predictions of General Relativity matter and enthusiast theoretical physicists such as Brain Cox or Brian Greene contribute too to very simply picturing the new kind of narrative offered by Einstein’s theory. So there is hope that we won’t have to wait the 200th anniversary of Einstein’s presentation of his theory for General Relativity to finally get its well deserved acknowledgement by the public and mainstream education.

 

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About Fabien Paillusson

I am a theoretical and computational physicist. I am a lecturer in the School of Maths and Physics at the University of Lincoln. My interests lie in the modelling of complex matter, ranging from biological systems to powders, and in the foundations of physics.

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